How does Google, the world’s biggest internet company, decide what stays online and what gets taken down? Why, just look at their terms of service of course.

25th July 2012


Merely typing the word ‘scam’ into Google will give you no less than 218,000,000 results. Now, the normal internet user will most likely believe that 50-60% of these are bonafide, with the other 40% being disregarded as nonsensical rubbish.

However, when an honest company gets labelled with the term ‘scam’ on Google, this will be seen by millions of internet users searching the word ‘scam’ within a mere one fifth of a second from the moment of that user typing in that search term into the Google search engine. The consequences of this would be immediate and could be disastrous and destructive for any business. But how does Google decide what should actually stay online and what is rubbish?

Google recently released their transparency report for 2011, detailing how many times they were asked to remove something from the internet. In the UK there were 1,455 requests: Google complied with 931 of them, from July – December 2011. It is interesting to note that Google did not comply with all of the requests that had been made, and this is because there is a specific criterion that Google’s team of analysts have to apply and satisfy, before they will even take a complaint about offensive material seriously.

Google tells us that the biggest issue it takes into account is that of narrowness; is the issue narrow enough for them to be able to actually help with? Whilst this may sound an easy enough hurdle to cross, in many cases the issue is so wide and so complex that it cannot be narrowed down. In these cases, Google does not help (ask the 524 users making removal requests that Google rejected). A specific example of this would be a website alleging a director had committed fraud in his role in a company. If the offending material has spread onto numerous websites, with many comments giving the matter apparent credibility and even adding in more defamatory allegations.In this instance, Google are likely to take the opinion that the matter is not narrow enough for them to help with, and so will duly reject a removal request.

There is no doubt that Google may be trying to deal with these requests responsibly, and we at Pinder Reaux have spent many years building up our relationship of trust with Google, through written requests and Court proceedings. In fact, we could probably recite the Google terms of service from memory. Being able to inform Google that specific content breaches their terms of service is really, I believe, how they decide what stays online. After all, Google are there to protect themselves, hence why they have the terms of service in the first place.

If you are able to properly articulate to Google why the offensive online material breaches their terms of service, with valid reference to local and international applicable law, then you have the best chance of having the offending content removed.

Luckily we at Pinder Reaux are able to articulate this in a way that Google appreciates and generally complies with. Google is just one internet company that we have such a relationship with, there are many others and if a web site contains offensive material then it is most likely we can help you in having it removed. Please feel free to give us a call on 0208-252-7373 and we will be happy to assist you.

John Spyrou

Associate Solicitor

Internet Law

Pinder Reaux and Associates